Ezekiel 24:1-27

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YHWH’s “word” or message again came to Ezekiel. In the Targum, this message is identified as a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” It was then the tenth day of the tenth month (mid-December to mid-January) of the ninth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin and of the ninth year of the reign of King Zedekiah. (Jeremiah 52:4) The year is commonly thought to have been 588 BCE. (24:1)

As at other times, Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” reminding him that he was a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. He was instructed to write down the tenth day of the tenth month of the ninth year, for it was on that very day that the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, began the siege of Jerusalem. According to the Septuagint, Ezekiel was to make a written record from that day onward. (24:2) YHWH’s word directed him to relate a parable or likeness to the “rebellious house” (“rebellious people” [Targum]) “and to say to them, Thus says the Lord YHWH, Set on the pot, set [it] on, and also pour water into it. [24:3] Put pieces [of meat] into it, all good pieces, thigh and shoulder. Fill [the pot] with choice bones [separating flesh from the bones (LXX)].” (24:4) It appears that the meat was to be from the “choicest of the flock.” According to the Hebrew text, “bones” were to be piled under the pot. In this case, the Hebrew word for “bones” apparently designates fuel or pieces of wood. In the Septuagint, the reference is to burning the bones underneath the meat from choice animals. The Hebrew expression “boil the boilings” probably means boil the pieces of meat. As for the bones in the pot, they were to be cooked. (24:5)

YHWH is quoted as pronouncing “woe” or calamity upon Jerusalem, the “city of bloods” or the city in which much innocent blood had been shed on account of judicial corruption, oppression of the poor, and the abominable practice of child sacrifice. The defiled or morally corrupt condition of Jerusalem is likened to rust in or on the sides of the pot, which rust could not be removed. As for the contents of the pot that represented Jerusalem, all pieces of meat were to be taken out of it “piece by piece,” and no lot was to be cast over the city, seemingly because nothing of value would remain. The pieces probably refer to the survivors of the conquest of Jerusalem who would be taken from the city and exiled. In the Targum, the reference is to exile, and it refers to the people as being driven out of Jerusalem because of there being no repentance. (24:6)

In the midst of Jerusalem, innocent blood had been shed. It was not concealed, being visible as if it were on a bare rock instead of having been poured out on the ground and covered with dust. The Septuagint rendering represents God as the One who exposed the shed blood, putting it, as it were, on a bare rock and not pouring it out on the ground to be covered by earth. The Targum indicates that the blood had been shed with premeditation and not unintentionally and that there was no repentance for it. (24:7)

To arouse his anger for the purpose of avenging the innocent blood that had been spilled, YHWH represented himself as putting the shed blood on a bare rock so that it would not be covered. (24:8) “Therefore,” the Lord YHWH declared, “Woe to the city of bloods [Jerusalem, the city where much innocent blood had been shed]. I also will make the pile great.” The pronouncement of “woe” indicated that the people in Jerusalem would experience great distress and suffering on account of siege and conquest. Inside the city, the people would be like the contents of a cooking pot, and the fire underneath it would not be extinguished. This is because the “pile” of wood would be great, assuring that the fire would keep burning and heating the pot. According to the Targum, God would make the misfortune of Jerusalem great. (24:9)

The military action that King Nebuchadnezzar and his warriors would undertake against Jerusalem (the pot [or city] and its contents [the people]) was comparable to piling up many pieces of wood under the cooking pot, kindling the fire, and making sure that the meat in the pot ended up being boiled well. The reference to mixing “spices” apparently relates to adding seasoning as would be common when boiling meat. The intense fire under the pot was to char the bones in it, suggesting that the conquest of Jerusalem would mean death for many and would not leave a large number of survivors. In the Targum, the interpretation relates to the attacking warriors. There should be numerous kings or rulers, armies assembled, siege troops equipped for war, and warriors invited against Jerusalem, causing the valiant defenders of the city to be confounded. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that the meat was to be thoroughly cooked and the amount of broth lessened in the process. (24:10)

Contextually, it is apparent that the pot was to be “set empty upon the coals.” This, however, is not specifically stated in the text. The Hebrew word for “pot” is masculine gender, but the pronominal suffix of the verb “set” is feminine, creating an ambiguity (“set her” instead of “set him [the pot]”). A number of modern translations, however, have rendered the verse according to the apparent contextual meaning. “Now set the empty pot on the coals.” (NLT) “Put the empty pot on the coals to make it hot.” (NJB) “Now set the empty bronze pot on the coals.” (TEV) “Then set the empty pot over the hot coals until it is red-hot.” (CEV) The objective of the action was to heat the copper pot to the point that the metal would “burn” or “glow,” that the filth attached to the sides of the pot would melt, and that the rust would be consumed or would vanish. According to the interpretation of the Targum, the ones engaging in unclean things would melt away in the midst of Jerusalem, and the sin of Jerusalem would be destroyed. (24:11)

The opening words of the Hebrew text are obscure. They may be rendered, “Labors; she has wearied.” Perhaps the thought is that the “labors” or great efforts involved in bringing an end to Jerusalem (represented by the pot) had a wearying effect. The Septuagint rendering does not include any corresponding words but continues with the thought that the “rust” or moral corruption of Jerusalem would not come out and that this rust would be “shamed” or exposed. Similarly, the Hebrew text indicates that the large amount of rust or the thick rust would not go out of Jerusalem (“her”). It concludes with the words, “Into fire, her [Jerusalem’s] rust” or moral filth. Perhaps the meaning is that, because the rust could not be melted away, the hot pot with the rust on its sides should be tossed into the fire. According to the Targum, Jerusalem would be set on fire because of her many sins. (24:12)

In the “uncleanness” or defilement of Jerusalem, lewdness or depravity existed. The people had become completely corrupt. Still, YHWH would have cleansed Jerusalem, but the city (as representing the people) would not be cleansed. The people chose to continue in their defiled state. Therefore, no cleansing would occur until YHWH’s fury against Jerusalem or her rebellious people had come to rest or had ended. (24:13)

What YHWH had declared through Ezekiel would occur. The calamity that had been portrayed with the heated cooking pot would come upon Jerusalem. By means of the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar, YHWH would act against the city and the inhabitants. He would not show restraint, not have pity, and not have regret. The attackers (God, according to the Septuagint) would judge or administer the severe punishment that the corrupt ways and actions (“thoughts” [LXX]; “practices” [P967]) of the people of Jerusalem merited. According to the Septuagint rendering, God would make no distinction nor have any pity. (24:14; see the Notes section.)

Again YHWH’s “word” or message came to Ezekiel. In the Targum, the reference is to a “word of prophecy from before the Lord.” (24:15) The prophetic word indicated that Ezekiel himself would experience a severe personal blow. As previously, Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” indicating that he was but a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. By a stroke, YHWH would take away from Ezekiel the delight or desirable one (his “wife” [24:18]) of his eyes. This may mean that YHWH would let Ezekiel’s wife die, taking no action to preserve her life. In response, Ezekiel was not to display any of the customary signs of mourning. He was not to wail in grief, weep, or have tears run down his cheeks. (24:16; see the Notes section.) Ezekiel could “sigh,” but not aloud as one would when mourning the dead. He was to bind his turban upon his head, to put sandals on his feet, not to cover his mustache (the lip or lower part of the face), and not to eat the “bread of men” or the bread or food of which mourners customarily partook. (24:17; see the Notes section.)

In the morning of the next day after receiving the word of YHWH regarding his wife, Ezekiel spoke to people who, along with him, found themselves as exiles in Babylon. In the evening of that day, his wife died. Then, in the morning of the next day, he dressed himself as usual and did not engage in customary acts of mourning over the loss of his wife. (24:18) This prompted the people to ask him about how what he had done related to them. (24:19) In response, Ezekiel said that the word of YHWH (word of prophecy from before the Lord [Targum]) had come to him. (24:20)

The message was, “Say to the house [people] of Israel, Thus says the Lord YHWH, Look, I am defiling my sanctuary [or temple], the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, the compassionate object of your soul, and your sons and your daughters whom you have left behind.” Regarding these “sons and daughters,” YHWH’s declaration was, “By the sword they will fall.” The word “look” focused attention on what YHWH was about to do. As for Ezekiel’s fellow exiles in Babylon, they did not believe that the temple in Jerusalem would be defiled and reduced to ruins by the troops under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar. The magnificent temple gave them a sense of security, making it an object of their strength and an edifice in which they could take pride. This temple was a structure that their eyes beheld with great delight, and their soul or they themselves had intense feelings about it, feelings that were comparable to the compassionate concern and care one would have for a dearly beloved child. Among Ezekiel’s fellow exiles, numerous parents still had children in Jerusalem, and these sons and daughters would perish as victims of war. (24:21)

At the time news about the destruction of the temple and the death of their sons and daughters would reach them, the exiles in Babylon would respond like Ezekiel had subsequent to the death of his wife. They would be numb and unable to bring themselves to act in a manner that was customary for mourners. The people would not cover the “lip” or the lower part of the face, and no one would eat the “bread of men,” or the bread or food that mourners commonly ate. (24:22; see the Notes section.) Instead of dressing like mourners, the people would wear turbans on their heads and sandals on their feet. They would pine or waste away “in their iniquities” or because of the sins that they had committed, and they would “groan” among one another on account of the calamity. (24:22; see the Notes section.)

To his fellow exiles, Ezekiel would be a sign, revealing the punitive judgment that was certain to occur and the effect it would have on them. According to all that he did after the death of his wife, the people would do. When this happened, they would “know” or be forced to recognize the Lord YHWH as the God who does not tolerate wrongdoing indefinitely and executes punitive judgment by means of the agency of his choosing. (24:24)

Again Ezekiel was addressed as “son of man,” as a mortal in the service of the eternal God YHWH. The question directed to him indicated what YHWH would do. “Will it not be on the day [when] I take from them their stronghold, the exultation [or joy] of their glory, the delight of their eyes, and the elevated object of their soul, [and] their sons and their daughters [24:25], an escapee will come to you and cause your ears to hear?” (24:26) The “stronghold” apparently refers to the temple, for the exiles would not have believed that YHWH would let his temple be destroyed. Therefore, they would have looked upon it as a source of security like a strong fortress. In view of its magnificence, the temple occasioned exultation or joy, and it was an object of glory or of great pride. The temple was an edifice that the people beheld with great delight as one would a very desirable object. It was a structure of a highly elevated nature like an exceedingly precious treasure. (24:25) An escapee or survivor of Jerusalem’s destruction would make known to Ezekiel what had happened and also would tell him about the death of the sons and daughters of his fellow exiles in Babylon. (24:26)

“In that day,” when the report from a survivor of the destruction of Jerusalem would reach him, Ezekiel would cease to be mute in relation to prophesying to fellow Israelites. Apparently after the death of his wife and the explanation of his actions about not mourning, Ezekiel said nothing more that personally affected the exiles in Babylon. The message about the fulfillment of YHWH’s word ended the period of silence. Everything Ezekiel did and said made him a sign to his fellow Israelites, and they would come to “know” or recognize YHWH as their God whose word had been fulfilled and who had commissioned Ezekiel as his prophet. (24:27)


In verse 14, the Septuagint concludes with additional wording, “Therefore, I will judge you according to your acts of bloodshed [literally, bloods]; and according to your thoughts, I will judge you, the infamous defiled one and [the one] abundant in embittering [or the one greatly rebelling against] me.”

According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 16, God would take away the “desires” of Ezekiel’s “eyes in battle,” and Ezekiel was not to “beat” his breast in grief nor to “weep.”

The Septuagint (in verse 17) refers to a “sighing of blood” (probably meaning a sighing on account of bloodshed), “of a loin” (possibly a loin covered with sackcloth), “of mourning.” The hair of his head should not be braided and no sandals should be on his feet. By no means should he be comforted by words coming from the lips of others, and he should not eat the “bread of men.” The oldest Greek manuscript (P967) indicates that there would be no sighing.

According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 22, the people would not receive any comfort from the “mouth” of others.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 23 indicates that the people would not shave their heads in expression of mourning. It refers to the “hair” as being on their heads and sandals on their feet.